Nights And Weekends
Greta Gerwig can be memorable in any movie, in any genre - in mumblecore dramedies (LOL), meta-textual horror movies (Baghead), silly studio comedies (No Strings Attached) and even remakes absolutely no one wanted to see (Arthur). Apart from Frances Ha, here are the five pictures you absolutely must see to understand exactly how great she is. Oh, and you might want to catch Lola Versus and The Dish & The Spoon, too.
1. NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS (2008)
Gerwig and lo-fi auteur Joe Swanberg made a number of movies together before Hollywood came calling; Nights And Weekends is their collaborative peak. Gerwig and Swanberg wrote, directed and star in the film, a brutally honest study of a couple torn apart by the demands of a long-distance relationship, seen in two segments. Swanberg's characteristically confrontational sex scenes leave neither actor any place to hide, either emotionally or physically, and Gerwig is spellbinding as a woman who knows time is running out on her romance but does her very best to ignore that.
2. GREENBERG (2010)
Gerwig's first film with Frances Ha director (and current partner) Noah Baumbach is an Altmanesque character piece about an obnoxious misanthrope (Ben Stiller) who sort of falls into a combative relationship with his absent brother's personal assistant. That'd be Gerwig, who invests a potentially generic character with a strange, unyielding dignity that keeps Greenberg from turning into a one-man show. (She also participates in one of the most intentionally uncomfortable sex scenes in the history of American cinema and makes it work.)
3. HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS (2007)
After giving her a small role in LOL, Swanberg cast Gerwig in this improvised romantic dramedy as a manic pixie dream girl who comes between two Chicago video producers (Kent Osborne and Baghead director Mark Duplass). Gerwig completely commits to the role of the quirky, confused Hannah, giving every scene an unpredictable electricity. It's a star-making turn; it just took a little while for everyone to notice.
4. DAMSELS IN DISTRESS (2011)
As a campus queen bee who's declared that she and her sorority sisters should date loutish frat boys in hopes of improving them and thus the world, Gerwig plays one of Whit Stillman's well-intentioned idiots without a hint of self-consciousness - or self-awareness - so it's almost shocking when her character experiences an existential crisis late in the film, rediscovering her purpose through good soap and a South American dance craze.
5. THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009)
Ti West's retro-80s chiller gives Gerwig a tiny role as the best pal of the babysitter protagonist (Jocelin Donahue), and she makes so much of her minimal screen time that it's a genuine surprise when she has to make her exit. You have to see the movie to really understand how that works, but trust me, she's great.